LaKeith Stanfield’s new show The Changeling is a stylish and unsettling odyssey through multiple generations – as strange events unfold.
Premiered on AppleTV+ Released Friday, September 8, the series (starring and executive produced by Stanfield) is a compelling fantasy-horror, even if the story is anything but simple.
“The Changeling” is based on a novel by Victor LaValle and is directed by showrunner Kelly Marcel. It describes itself as a “fairy tale for adults”.
The plot follows Apollo (Stanfield), a New York rare book dealer who is haunted by his missing father (who abandoned him when he was four) as he begins dating librarian Emma (Clark Backo). .
The show frequently jumps around in time and contains flashbacks within Flashbacks.
For example, on Apollo and Emma’s first date, the story jumps back to New York in 1968 and follows Apollo’s parents as they meet, flirt, and eventually get together in 1977.
His father, Brian West (Jared Abrahamson), seems doted on his mother Lillian (Alexis Louder), so it comes as a shock when the narrator reveals that Brian left when Apollo was young.
While the series is already reminiscent of Apollo’s parents in the 70s, there is one another In it, his mother recalls a shocking incident of violence from her youth.
It takes some time for the show to reach the fantasy and horror elements.
It appears to be set in modern-day New York, but in one scene Emma is wandering through the woods and comes across an old woman – which seems straight out of a fairy tale.
Apollo has a recurring “dream” in which his father returns to him, albeit in the form of a nightmarish creature that skins him, revealing his father’s face and breathing blue smoke.
When Apollo and Emma have their own baby, Emma behaves strangely, participating in bizarre online conspiracy forums and receiving text messages that disappear when she tries to show Apollo.
After Emma disappears, Apollo searches for answers.
There’s a lot to take in, and the series jumps back and forth without fear of falling into a sudden flashback that explains the backstory of a seemingly random character.
The beginning of the first episode even begins in the 19th century and shows a ship from Norway carrying immigrants on their way to a new life in America.
The narrator contributes to the fairytale atmosphere of the whole thing.
As his voice overlays the opening scene of the ship sailing on stormy seas, the narrator says, “Not just an improbable voyage, but an impossible one.” How on earth did they do it? They had help.”
There are also moments that make one think of fairy tales, such as Apollo saying to Emma, ”One of your eyes is bigger than the other” (reminiscent of Little Red Riding Hood’s interactions with the wolf in the famous story).
There are fantastical images – such as Apollo’s father appearing as a monstrous creature breathing blue smoke – but the show is also full of images that give the impression of being grounded in the real world, such as the gloomy sight a library in Queens or Sylvester Stallone’s boxing ring on the screen (when Apollo’s parents arrange to see “Rocky”).
“The Changeling” has a lot on its mind and occasionally gets messy.
But despite all the different narratives, it feels like the series is in control of its story, even if it’s in no rush to neatly untangle each plot thread.
For viewers who enjoy disturbing crime stories like Severance mixed with the horror of a show like The Haunting of Hill House and the whimsy of a Guillermo Del Toro film, The Changeling is captivating.